By Louise Segreto
More tethered to home during this Covid-19 Pandemic, I have been out in the field doing daily nature observations. I find comfort in the natural rhythms, sounds and sights of nature. Perhaps you do too? Here are some tips from years of trail walking and bushwacking to see more on your outdoor ramblings:
SLOW DOWN. Walk quietly and wear soft shoes that minimize noise. Think moccasins or very soft soled shoes. Stop periodically, sit quietly and listen. You will be amazed about how many critters will come to check you out. And, you will notice things you would likely have missed had you rushed.
LEAVE FIDO HOME. This is a really hard one for me. I have two dogs, a Newf and Aussie, that give me the betrayed “sad eye” when I head out. But, dogs are distracting in the field. They scare and chase wild critters. Marching through the woods with a “large predator,” AKA your dog, even if he/she is trained well, is at best problematic for nature sightings.
THINK HABITAT. Consciously think about what habitat you are headed to and what you might see. I often leave home with an intent to look for a specific species or happening that I know may be present where I am walking that day. And, while frequently I will not find what I originally set out to see, I am always pleasantly surprised to stumble upon something wonderfully unexpected!
VARY THE TIME OF DAY that you go out into the field. There is a lot going on in nature not only during dawn and dusk, but also at night. Yes, I know mosquitos and gnats in Minnesota are annoying at night. So, find an insect repellent that works for you. You will be rewarded with night calls, starry skies, and after-hours happenings that you have been missing.
VISIT THE SAME AREA FREQUENTLY especially in the Spring and Fall. What you see unfold over the course of several weeks or months can be amazing. There is nothing more beautiful than watching woodland patches of spring ephemerals bloom over several weeks, disappearing after the tree canopy fills in and casts them in shade. Or, seeing prairie flowers taking their turns blooming over the course of several months at a nearby restored prairie. Knowing a place intimately, helps you know where to look and gives you a sense of phenological/seasonal changes.
USE TECHNOLOGY as it suits you. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It tends to take me out of the moment unless I know how to use it without futzing around. However, I always have my iPhone handy for photos, recordings and reference. Experiment with some phone apps that you can take into the field. I use these three: “PictureThis” for plant, shrub and tree identifications (free trial); “Audubon Bird Guide”, been using for years, but there are several other bird apps you might check out and “iNaturalist” a citizen science phone app that helps with identification with whatever you find in the field, let’s you document their locations and create a list, and connects you to other naturalists. (More about phone apps in a future article.)
I am headed out into the field after I finish editing this article! Here’s what I have in my back pack ready to go when I dash out the door:
- *Water * Insect Repellent* Sun Block *Binocs *Small Journal and 2 Mechanical Pencils *Several Plastic Zip Lock Bags *Sunglasses *Small Magnifying Glass *Field Guide to Mushrooms *Swiss Army Knife *Benadryl Spray *First Aid Kit *Phone/Camera
- Lastly, sharing what you find in the field with others, helps all of us stay more connected with our natural world! Knowing about the fungi, plants, birds and animals that live in your community is the first step towards advocating towards ensuring that they be here for our children and grandchildren. Have you seen something cool? Let me know and we may share on Facebook, Instagram, or our newsletter.